A Great Petrified Forest Overnight Stop

A place I’d simply passed by during the Route 66 trip turned out to be an excellent, and free, overnight stop that I hadn’t known about before. But first, the trip there.

It was a busy morning of work and meetings, definitely a case of the Mondays. I couldn’t even finish the tasks I was working on before more got piled on. Even in the dream world of van life and remote work at what many would consider a dream job, you can have days like this.

Because of this, I got a much later start on the road than planned. I hoped I wouldn’t get kicked out for staying at Red Rock Park half the day trying to finish up work. But seeing as how I talked to multiple people over the weekend who had no recourse for their reserved campsites being already occupied, I wasn’t too worried about it. There was no trouble.

After feeding myself and the van, I hit I-40 west out of Gallup. The driving was easy, and before long I entered Arizona. This will be my last state line crossing for a while. It will also be my last time zone crossing. Arizona doesn’t follow Daylight Savings Time, so I effectively crossed into the same time zone as the west coast when I entered Arizona. I’ll still be here when the rest of the country switches back to standard time. Although it isn’t “coming home” yet, it certainly crossed my mind that this is the state where I intend to make my legal residence over the next couple of months.

I took the exit for Petrified Forest National Park, one of my stops from last year. My annual park pass is still good (this is where I bought it last October, actually), and I wanted to drive through the park again. I didn’t stop as many places as before, but I revisited a few favorite spots from last time — and where I fit with a trailer. I won’t bore you with all the pictures I took, though some came out better than last time because it was a more sunny day.

Let it not be said that the National Park Service doesn’t have a sense of humor. If you can’t read it, the small text at the bottom says “or hungry coyotes might eat you.” That’ll motivate the kids to get back in the car.

The trip through the park was great, but my other reason for the detour was for the free campground at Crystal Forest, literally right outside the south gate. There’s a small fee for RV sites with hookups, but boondocking is free as long as you’re self-contained, which I am. There’s lots of petrified wood around, including small pieces on the ground that you’re allowed to take. This is in stark contrast to inside the park, where you’re not allowed to take anything. That’s understandable since without the park it would probably all be gone by now. But here, outside the park, it doesn’t matter.

There’s another reason why you shouldn’t take the petrified wood, though. It’s heavy! This old VW is set up as a joke, but it also makes a good point.

I missed Arizona sunsets. I could try to take credit for my amazing photography skills in capturing it, but the truth is that it really is that brilliant, colorful, and amazing. Any hack with a smartphone could take amazing sunset pictures here. As for me, I’m just a writer who does his own photography stunts.

I had some fun chats with the neighbors after the sun went down and it cooled off a bit. Many of them are also on their way to the Quartzsite area for the winter. I’ve been feeling a little bit lonely in my travels lately, but although these people were strangers, we had things in common. One couple even had a cat on a leash! Those feelings of loneliness are going away the closer I get to my winter home and the other people who call it that.

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